A co-production between France and cult movie distributor Severin Films in the US, The Theatre Bizarre is a blood-splattered horror anthology film that splices together six gory stories. When I think of great genre anthologies, the George Romero/Stephen King collaboration Creepshow comes to mind, as does Amicus' The House That Dripped Blood with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and the more recent Trick'r'Treat. It is a shame, then, that The Theatre Bizarre, although featuring some entertaining moments, doesn't follow suit and is largely ineffectual.
With Lovecraftian frog people, relationships gone wrong, cannibals and eyeball injections – not to mention a smattering of twisted humour – the film certainly lives up to its title, but this outright weird display of creativity just doesn't add up to much, and the finest story of them all – Douglas Buck's The Accident – feels out of place among its more gruesome and obscure peers.
The first of the six shorts is The Mother of Toads, written and directed by Richard Stanley (Hardware), an HP Lovecraft-inspired tale that sees an American couple on holiday in France who are swept up in the supernatural when the male of the two has his fascination for Lovecraft piqued by a mysterious old woman who has what she proclaims is a real copy of the Necronomicon.
Following in its green and slimy wake are I Love You, a drama centred on a woman leaving her husband that reaches a rather horrific and bloody climax; Wet Dreams, directed by and starring genre icon Tom Savini, which is the weakest story of the lot; The Accident; Vision Stains and Sweets.
In The Accident, a little girl asks her mother in bed one night about why people die, and how their age has an effect on the end of their lives. During their conversation, we see flashbacks of a motorcycle accident that resulted in the deaths of a man and the deer he struck, the aftermath of which was witnessed by the girl and her mother. This is a film with real heart and emotion, and one that could only be considered horror because of one particularly nasty scene involving the deer, which comes across as being totally unnecessary. The strong gore only serves to take away impact from the scene. Nevertheless, a solid and well-made short remains that would be better presented on its own, rather than being bookended by a couple of truncated splatter movies.
The Theatre Bizarre succeeds in its use of blood and guts but falls down on the quality of storytelling. At nearly two hours, it's just too long. That wouldn't be a problem had the films been more enjoyable, but sadly that isn't the case. There's plenty of the bizarre, but not much else.